Steelers vs Titans: Battle in the Trenches
The Titans got off to a franchise record 10-0 start and finished 13-3 only to lose the AFC Divisional playoffs to the Baltimore Ravens.
The Titans may have had a better record, but it was the Pittsburgh Steelers who came home with the Lombardi Trophy as the six-time Super Bowl Champions.
It’s a new season and new challenges.
Most assuredly, the Titans have to be bitter at their outcome when they had such hopes of taking it all.
But the power of the Terrible towel prevailed.
RB LenDale White and LB Keith Bulluck disrespected the City of Pittsburgh by desecrating the towel.
Desecration of the towel resulted in the Titans losing the last game of the regular season against the Colts and the Ravens in the divisional title game.
Thursday, the season opens with the Steelers vs the Titans at Heinz Field.
Last season, the Steelers had trouble rushing the ball and stopping the run.
The offensive line was pushed and manhandled by the Titans defensive front four that played without defensive ends Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Roethlisberger threw for 374 yards and two touchdowns but had a season high 4 turnovers, two interceptions and two fumbles.
Those responsible for this thrashing were the Titan replacements, then rookie Jason Jones and William Hayes.
Both were responsible for five sacks and four turnovers which were converted into 21 points.
Jones who started for Haynesworth had 3 1/2sacks and forced Roethlisberger into three fumbles.
Hayes who stepped in for Vanden Bosch recovered two of the fumbles.
First responsibility, the line must protect Roethlisberger in the passing game.
He likes to run out of the pocket to buy time to find his receivers and make a play.
The Titans last year managed to keep Roethlisberger in the pocket.
The offensive line must help to create escape lanes for Roethlisberger to slip though and keep him clean while in the pocket.
Its important for the offensive line to improve in pass protection and reduce the number of sacks on Roethlisberger in the passing game.
Second, establish the running game.
The Steeler running game was stuffed by the Titans defense.
Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall will be challenged by the Titans defensive front.
Last season, Parker was held to 29 yards rushing and no touchdowns. Mewelde Moore faired no better with 28.
The Steelers must establish the run game to support the pass.
With the insert of a blocking fullback and tight end, we can expect improvement in the running game.
In addition, Rashard Mendenhall (back from shoulder injury) should be sharing the load with Parker.
The Steelers envision a bigger role for Mendenhall who was the 23rd overall pick in the 2008 draft.
The Steelers need to improve as a total offense and reduce the number of mental errors that seemed to plagued them throughout the pre-season.
On the other side of the ball, the defense must defend against the run.
Last season, the defense allowed 117 yards rushing and two touchdowns by the combined efforts of the Titans running back duo Chris Johnson and LenDale White.
Like the offensive line, the defensive front line has to dominant up front.
One thing in our favor will be the play of ILB Keyaron Fox.
Fox is substituting for injured starter Lawrence Timmons.
During pre-season, it was evident that Timmons struggles against the run.
It was especially evident against the Redskins.
When the ball goes the other direction, he is great at tracking down the ball-carrier with his speed. He’s great at getting to the QB, he can drop into a zone, and is athletic enough to cover a RB, TE, or even a WR in coverage.
However,Fox has looked fantastic this pre-season.
He looks like a natural ILB and doesn’t care if the play is run at him or away from him. He sheds blocks, tracks the ball, and makes a play.
The Steelers special teams finished 2008 with the AFC's No. 1 special teams in both kick-and punt-return defense.
In addition, the coverage groups were consistent in allowing 19.3 yards per kickoff return and 6.2 yards per punt return without surrendering a touchdown during the regular season.
Special teams’ finished the year as NFL's No. 1 kickoff defense and No. 4 in punt defense.
Expectations this year is to see improvement in the return game.
Receiver Mike Wallace and cornerback Joe Burnett were added in the draft. Running back Stefan Logan, a Canadian Football League standout, and wide receiver Shawn McDonald were signed.
Logan has been electric in returning kicks in the preseason for the reigning champs.
Wearing his new number 11(to fit with the receivers), Logan will get several opportunities to impact the season opener against the Tennessee Titans.
The ex-CFL running back has become the Steelers’ most dazzling player of the preseason when he returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the 21-10 win over the Carolina Panthers.
Logan will be the man at punt/kickoff return. Mike Wallace will be the other kick-off specialist and as the 4th receiver and Mewelde Moore will be the back-up on punts and kickoffs.
Punter Daniel Sepulveda is back healthy.
Sepulveda saw his first action since his knee injury, in the preseason opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
After one of the biggest cheers from the fans welcoming him back to the fold, Sepulveda punted 46 yards to Arizona 15.
Kicker Jeff Reed sprained his ankle when he stepped in a hole during practice a few weeks ago.
He was able to kick against the Redskins with the injury.
This game will be a battle in the trenches. The ultimate domination will be upfront-offensive line versus defensive line.
Whoever dominates up front will win this contest.
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